What is the APR Design® Guide?
Determining a plastic package or item’s recyclability goes beyond whether a specific municipal program collects it, or whether it’s made from a particular plastic resin. The APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability helps package designers measure each aspect of a package design against industry-accepted criteria to ensure that it is truly recycling compatible. The APR Design® Guide is the most comprehensive resource outlining the plastics recycling industry’s recommendations in the marketplace today.
The APR Design® Guide is itemized by design features commonly used with packaging applications. The recycling impact of each design feature is broken down and categorized as:
- APR Design® Guide Preferred
- Detrimental to Recycling
- Renders Package Non-Recyclable per APR Definition
- Requires Testing
Learn more about these categories here. The content is regularly updated to ensure APR’s Recyclability Categories accurately reflect the operations and technology in use by today’s North American plastics recycling infrastructure.
The Flow Diagram below illustrates the steps needed to determine the APR Recyclability Category for a package item. The appropriate recyclability category is the first step in determining if a package item is recyclable per the APR Definition. While APR Test Results can show that an item is technically recyclable, i.e. compatible with a recycling stream in terms of physical and chemical properties of the reprocessed item as feedstock, the need for a collection system and a market must also be satisfied. Learn more about how an item is deemed “recyclable per APR definition” here.
How has the APR Design® Guide made an impact?
The APR Design® Guide closes the loop between package designers and plastic recyclers with a forum allowing collaboration toward the common goal of creating a Circular Economy for plastics. Preferred package designs drive the Circular Economy by enabling the highest value end use applications for recycled plastic. Good design reduces unnecessary costs and improves productivity for plastic reclaimers by minimizing contamination in the stream, therefore ensuring that brands who purchase and use post-consumer plastic resin (PCR) in their new products and packages are getting high-quality material that meets their performance requirements.
Scope of the APR Design® Guide
This guide covers plastic items entering the postconsumer collection and recycling systems most widely used in industry today. Collection methods include single stream and dual stream MRFs, deposit container systems, mixed waste facilities, and grocery store rigid plastic and film collection systems. The impact of package design on automated sortation process steps employed in a single stream MRF, as well as high volume recycling processes is of primary consideration. Items recovered in systems where they are source-selected and sent to a recycler specializing in this particular item are specifically excluded from this guide.
How to use the APR Design® Guide
- If you are new to the APR Design® Guide and/or in the early phases of designing a new package, we recommend you follow these steps:
- Learn about APR’s definition of recyclable.
- Understand the four categories of recycling compatibility.
- Decide what resin the body of your package will be and navigate to the “Guidance by Resin” section by hovering on the “APR Design® Guide” menu above.
- Then dig deep into the details for each specific design feature, e.g. labels, adhesives, inks, etc.
- Evaluate the recycling category of each design feature.
- If all the design features fall into the “Preferred” category, then you’ve designed a great package!
- If any of the design features fall into the “Detrimental” category, then your package is considered “Recyclable With Detrimental Features” and we encourage you to revise these features.
- If any of the design features fall into the “Renders Package Non-Recyclable” category, then your package is not recyclable.
- The APR’s Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability, and APR’s associated Recognition programs, do not convey any consideration by any other organization nor guarantee recognition by any other organization. APR does not share submitted data with any other organizations. Whether a company achieves APR recognition is solely dependent upon the results of an APR review of test data. If APR intellectual property is to be used as documentation or justification toward any other organization’s evaluation or recognition, no claim of APR approval or recognition may be made under such circumstances without the express written permission of APR. When data are used by other organizations outside of APR’s recognition programs, in the absence of a licensing agreement with such organizations, the APR does not give permission for its name to be used to claim, or to imply in any way, that APR has recognized or approved the design feature or innovation that was tested. APR does not recommend, advocate, or influence any other organization’s decision making in this regard.
- The results of testing using APR’s Critical Guidance Test Protocols along with a Critical Guidance Technical Review are intended to qualify a company’s innovation for APR’s Critical Guidance Recognition only. The complete testing protocol process requires a review of the test results by a Technical Review Team convened by APR. If test results are not reviewed by an APR Technical Review Team, no APR recognition is possible. APR does not give permission for its name to be used to claim, or to imply in any way, that APR has recognized or approved the design feature or innovation that was tested when APR has not reviewed the test results.
Although test data generated by a company is the property of that company and may be used for other purposes besides APR Critical Guidance Recognition, the test protocols are the property of APR and APR requires that they be used as written in their entirety. It should also be noted that partial test results that may under-report negative impacts from an innovation or design feature could misrepresent APR’s intention or position and will be called out by APR when these incidents come to APR’s attention.
- The APR provides Screening, Benchmark and Sortation voluntary test protocols at no charge to users as a service to the plastics packaging and recycling industries. APR does not recommend or authorize the use of its name or logo by any organization or company that uses these tests for evaluating a plastic package, innovation, or design feature for any public recognition, consumer-facing instructional label, or similar mark or communication.
- APR firmly believes that companies want to design packaging that is recyclable and sustainable, and we are here to help you achieve this goal. Get one-on-one help through the APR Design® for Plastics Recyclability Training Program.
- If you already have some experience with the APR Design® Guide and are seeking guidance on a specific feature, hover on the “APR Design® Guide” menu above to search by resin or package component.
The APR Design® Guide has been prepared by the Association of Plastic Recyclers as a service to the plastic packaging industry to promote the most efficient use of the nation’s plastics recycling infrastructure and to enhance the quality and quantity of recycled postconsumer plastics. The information contained herein reflects the input of APR members from a diverse cross-section of the plastics recycling industry, including professionals experienced in the recycling of all postconsumer plastic bottles discussed in this guideline. It offers a valuable overview of how package design impacts conventional plastics recycling systems and provides useful recommendations on how problems routinely encountered by plastics recyclers might be addressed through design changes that make plastic bottles more compatible with current recycling systems. Because new technological developments are always being made, this guide cannot anticipate how these new developments might impact plastic bottle recycling. Thus, while the information in this guide is offered in good faith by APR as an accurate and reliable discussion of the current challenges faced by the plastics recycling industry, it is offered without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, which are expressly disclaimed. APR and its members accept no responsibility for any harm or damages arising from the use of or reliance upon this information by any party. APR intends to update this document periodically to reflect new developments and practices.